Story by Michelle Stein
Winter in Ohio has a way of bringing out the cabin fever — especially when the excitement of the holiday season dies down and there are no more special gatherings to look forward to. But that doesn’t mean we should be resigned to staring longingly out our windows, counting down the days until spring. There’s plenty of ways parents and grandparents or aunts and uncles can spend quality time together with children during these long winter days. Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Build a snowman. And just try to keep yourself from singing, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” from the movie “Frozen.” I dare you. Seriously, though, this is fun family project if you’re working with the right kind of snow (and warm gloves.)
2. Let your little ones help you shovel snow. Or, simply bundle them up and allow them to tromp around in the white stuff while you’re shoveling. It’s productive, it burns calories and it’s fun — at least for the kiddos, that is.
3. Play a board game/card game. Sorry, Connect 4, Monopoly, Uno, Checkers, Chutes and Ladders, Go Fish — heck, teach them Solitaire or Bridge. It doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re making memories together as a family.
4. Go for a winter walk. It could be around your neighborhood, through a park, anywhere, really. Just bundle everyone up, leash up the dog and get moving!
5. Take a fitness class together. Hit up your local YMCA and sign up for a class to get that blood pumping this winter. From group exercise classes, swim lessons, gymnastics, basketball, cycling and more, there’s something for everyone.
6. Make a hot cocoa bar. Collect different types of hot chocolate and gather up the whipped cream, marshmallows, chocolate/caramel syrup, peppermint sticks and other fun toppings and voila — a fun (and delicious) way to spend time as a family.
7. Go sledding. Find a (safe) hilly place, bring a sled and have at it. Just make sure to lay some ground rules so no one gets hurt.
8. Visit an indoor water park. Kalahari and Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky are both great indoor water parks in Ohio. Granted, this idea isn’t exactly the cheapest way to pass the time, but it could make for a fun weekend getaway. And hey, you might almost forget it’s the middle of winter as you’re enjoying water slides and pool fun.
9. Let out some energy at an indoor play area. If you’d rather avoid the harsh elements, this can be a great alternative to playing outside during the winter months. It can even be free if you hit up a local McDonald’s or a mall that has a play area. If you’re willing and able to spend some money, though, there are indoor places with inflatables for the kiddos to burn off some energy. And hey, there’s always that trusty standby: Chuck E. Cheese’s.
10. Go bowling. Grab the kids and head out to the nearest bowling alley to show off your skills (or lack thereof). Either way, it’s bound to be a hoot. Be sure to ask for bumpers and ball ramps for the little ones. Many locations sell pizza and/or have an arcade, so you can really make an afternoon out of it.
11. Make snow angels. It’s funny how such a simple thing can bring so much joy. But there’s just something about plopping down in a pile of fresh snow and creating an angel that’s irresistible — no matter how young or old you happen to be.
12. Have movie night. Make some popcorn and settle in with some cozy pajamas for a movie with the family. You can watch a flick you already own, or grab a movie from Redbox, Family Video (they have a section of free kids movies!), Amazon, Netflix, etc.
13. Visit a museum. It’s perfect way to get out of the house during those dreary days of winter. Many museums even have interactive components suited for children.
14. Go ice skating. Channel your inner Olympic figure skater and head out to the nearest ice rink. (Maybe invest in some knee/elbow pads before trying anything too fancy.) And hey, if ice isn’t your thing, try roller skating at a local rink.
15. Learn something new together. An instrument. A foreign language. A hairstyle. A craft. A recipe. Let an expert family member, cooking magazine or YouTube be your guide.
16. Read a book together. Toddlers and preschoolers might already be used to having books read aloud to them. But don’t underestimate the power of reading aloud to older kids. If you find the right story, you might just turn them on to some of your favorites. Your local library has endless possibilities for books — plus, oftentimes there will be activities and events just for kids.
If you’re having a hard time figuring out where to start on this list, here’s a tip: Write down each activity on a popsicle stick (or a piece of paper), and whenever the kiddos start in with, “I’m bored,” have them randomly select an activity. You could even throw in a few household chores for good measure, but with a twist — like “vacuuming dance party,” or “sock matching game.” Hey, no one said housework couldn’t be fun.
Snow Ice Cream
Several cups of fresh snow*
Milk or cream
Flavoring, vanilla or your choice
Gather clean snow. There are two methods, so use your judgment: Place a big bowl outside before a snowfall is expected. Snow will fall directly into your container. Or, head outside with your bowl and simply scoop up some of that fresh snow shortly after it has fallen.
Bring your bowl of snow inside and add milk or cream, little by little, stirring well after each addition. The snow freezes the milk and it will seize up into “ice cream” when the correct ratio is reached.
*The definition of clean varies. You’ll want to avoid the areas under trees, as there may be leaves or bark present. Just gather the top layer, as the dirt factor increases the closer you get to your grass. If the very idea of this makes you a bit squeamish, that’s OK. Crack open a fresh container of ice cream you’ve purchased.